Latin at Durston House is not associated with the endless rote memorisation of noun declensions and verb conjugations. For us, the aim of learning Latin is to read in order to understand. We think that knowing grammar means mastering the instruments required to analyse the language, which then allows the learner to understand and translate texts accurately. To provide a context for the study of Latin, broad aspects of Greco-Roman culture are introduced and developed throughout the three years of study. Greek myths, early Roman legends and the more practical aspects of everyday Roman life present a comprehensive background to dedicated language work.
In Year 6, after an introduction to the Indo-European languages and Latin pronunciation, boys are introduced to the basic Latin grammar and vocabulary. Throughout the year boys learn approximately 200 words in Latin. They are introduced to the Latin morphology, which deals with how some word classes like nouns, adjective, pronouns and verbs change their form according to the role they play in a sentence (inflection). The boys are taught nouns in the first and second declension and verbs in the first conjugation in order to use them in simple translation exercises. The Latin syntax is introduced and, through translation practice, boys gain a sound understanding of concepts such as number, gender and case. There is an early emphasis on Latin composition,the translation from English to Latin. Throughout their first year of Latin, boys learn about the origins of Rome and read stories about Roman heroes such as Romulus, Horatius, Cloelia and Mucius Scaevola. They also learn about the Trojan War and Ulysses (whom the Greeks called Odysseus).
In Years 7-8, boys learn to cope with more advanced grammar, vocabulary and morphology. As a result the focus on language awareness increases; open discussions and think-aloud strategies are promoted to develop higher thinking skills. Complex grammatical constructions such as subjunctive, ablative absolute, purpose clauses and indirect commands are studied. Boys also continue to learn about the Romans themselves: their food and clothing, their house and leisure pastimes. They learn more about the Roman history and read stories about famous mythological heroes such as Perseus and Medusa. The Classics Trip to Italy gives boys in Years 7-8 the opportunity to visit important Roman sites and further their knowledge and interest in what has been termed ‘the study of what happens in the gap between antiquity and ourselves’ (Mary Beard, Confronting the Classics, 2013).